Jordan Bastian, a Senior Infection Preventionist within CloroxPro’s Clinical and Scientific Affairs team, recently sat down with Dr. Saskia Popescu, Assistant Professor, Epidemiologist and CloroxPro Spokesperson, to discuss their predictions for the 2023-2024 cold and flu season. Check out the video above or keep reading below to hear their thoughts on what’s to come and what precautions we can take to help stop the spread of illness-causing germs.

Please note this is an abridged version of the conversation edited for brevity and clarity.

Jordan Bastian: Hi, I’m Jordan Bastian, Senior Infection Preventionist with Clorox Pro. With me today, I have Saskia Popescu, Assistant Professor and Epidemiologist and CloroxPro Partner, to discuss predictions and best practices to help prevent the spread of illness-causing germs this cold and flu season.

Saskia Popescu: Thanks so much, Jordan. I’m so excited to chat with you today. 

Jordan Bastian: So, to kick it off today, I’d love to pick your brain on what you think cold and flu season will look like this year in the United States based on current data and trends.

Saskia Popescu: I think we’re likely in for a moderate flu season. We’re getting some really helpful information out of Australia as they’re currently heading into their summer, which means they’ve already experienced their flu season, and what we actually get to see is their experiences through that as a way to predict our own. 

Australians reported that they had a moderate flu season that started a little bit later. They still had surges and spikes, but nowhere near the severity of the 2016 and 2017 flu seasons. So, most likely, what we’re going to experience is a moderate flu season with later activity, looking more toward the kind of pre-covid seasonal patterns. 

Jordan Bastian: RSV is another pathogen to keep our eyes on. As you mentioned, Saskia, in the southern hemisphere, what we’re seeing out of Australia is they had an uptick in RSV cases, which might signal that we might be seeing some increased cases of RSV as well. Australia also saw that 72% of hospitalizations due to cold and flu or respiratory illness were in children 16 and under, and this was up 24% from last year.

A lot of this has to do with behavior changes as well as relaxed precautions. We know more people are traveling now. We’re also seeing more kids returning to school, as well as employees who have been working remotely, spending more time in the office. We also see lower vaccination rates due to vaccine fatigue and hesitancy. Last year, respiratory illness rates were as high as 16%. What I’d like to know now is what some of these best practices are that we could put into place to help protect us and slow the spread of these illness-causing germs.

Saskia Popescu: That’s a great question. In addition to ensuring you get your flu shot, we have to talk about different ways to prevent the spread of these germs because we know that cold and flu germs love to lurk on surfaces and commonly shared items. We have to remember that these illness-causing germs require us to take a holistic approach. The first strategy is what I call the bread and butter of infection prevention, and that’s hand hygiene. This is a strategy that prevents not just a single infectious disease but is really effective against almost all of them.

We want to ensure that people routinely wash their hands with soap and water. And if you’re out and about, alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a great strategy. In addition to hand hygiene, one of the biggest but most neglected ones is routine cleaning and disinfection. We want to make sure that people are routinely cleaning and disinfecting surfaces: desks, computers, countertops, sinks, doorknobs, cell phones, and the one that I always think is neglected: the water bottle.  

Lastly, be mindful of your cough and respiratory etiquette. If you feel an illness coming on, please wear a mask and stay home. But if you feel a sneeze or a cough coming along, that’s a great time to use your elbow. 

Jordan Bastian: I have to completely agree with you talking about this holistic approach to cold and flu prevention. I resonate with what you said about hand hygiene. We know that our hands are only as clean as the environment around us. It really speaks to the fact that we’re going to need to clean and disinfect the surfaces that are in our environment. I recommend ready-to-use (RTU) disinfectant wipes as a day solution for building occupants and for cleaning staff.

These help to slow the spread or to stop the spread of illness-causing germs that can resign on surfaces and do so in an effective and efficient manner. RTU disinfectant wipes are accessible, easy to use, versatile, and feature fast contact times for multiple viruses. One of the risks of using a disinfectant is for the surface to dry before the contact time elapses. Having a product with a fast contact time is key as we enter into this cold flu season and also beyond, especially for facilities who are looking to combat or stop the spread of multiple viruses in their facilities at any given time.

Saskia Popescu: Absolutely, Jordan; I think that’s such an important point because we want to make sure that not only are those disinfecting materials accessible but also that people feel comfortable using them and making sure that they’re ready to use and that the contact time isn’t really, really high is such a big piece to this.

Jordan Bastian: Great. Well, thank you so much, Saskia! It has been a pleasure talking with you today. And thank you for sharing your insights and predictions for this upcoming cold and flu season. We wish you the best. Hope you stay safe and healthy.

Saskia Popescu: You too, Jordan. Thanks so much for having me!